God Can Change Your Marriage in 2016
Do you believe God can change your marriage in 2016?
That’s half the battle, right there. Because maybe, just maybe, you’ve given up hope.
What if the mess your marriage is in exists because of a number of God-created and poorly humanly handled circumstances and responses?
Here’s what we know to be true, things that are scientific, but Biblical:
- Humans have a natural tendency to “habituate” – in other words, you and your husband (and your kids) are naturally wired to take each other for granted and “get used to” each other – good but also not good. Chew on that for a few minutes.
- Gratitude – daily style – is the only thing that combats habituation.
- Our culture is designed to destroy the self esteem of young boys and girls (read Reviving Ophelia and Raising Cain to discover the impact – and these were written a while ago – things are worse now). This destruction ruins our relationships. Why? We can only receive as much love as we are giving – and we can only give as much love as we receive. This is wired into our brains. Our ability to love & respect ourselves is tied directly to our ability to love & respect God – and others.
- The results of the culture (and our own unhealthy responses to it) destroy relationships.
- These results and reactions leave us with broken men. They are men who stuff their feelings, lack healthy identity and esteem, become defensive, lack empathy, and are disconnected and resistant to intimacy emotionally with their wives.
- These results and reactions leave us with broken women. Women (and men) are trapped in feelings of unworthiness, gaining identity at the altar of other people’s opinions, lack healthy identity and esteem, are defensive, and are disconnected emotionally from their husbands, even though they desperately want to connect.
- The way we pursue our desires keeps us from naturally attaining them. We push our dreams (and people) away, instead of bringing them closer to us.
- The end result is isolation and divorce. We find intimacy and deep connection with the people we love the most elusive and impossible – and so do our kids because they can’t model behaviors they haven’t seen.
Here’s an example, brief, but you’ll get a small taste of what I’m talking about:
Johnny falls and skins his knee. He cries.
Mom or Dad or babysitter, gramma, grampa, or older sibling tell him to “get over it,” because “big boys don’t cry.” Johnny doesn’t know what to do with how he feels, so from the age of three, he quickly learns to stuff how he feels.
He doesn’t receive empathy.
How can he learn how to give it?
Without empathy, relationships DIE. And a recent study from the University of Chicago shows that kids from religious homes are LESS empathetic and altruistic than those without faith.
We’re judging and not loving. So Johnny (and the little girls his age) have tons of rules in their Christian home, but no relationship – because at the very foundation of relationship is having empathy for another person – an openness to them, allowing them to process their feelings the way they need to so they can fully mature in healthy ways.
Homes aren’t safe emotionally – for anyone. Dad and mom use their energy being stoic instead of real and vulnerable with each other and their kids, while the kids hide their true selves to escape judgment, knowing their pain, anger, hurt, etc., won’t be met with empathy, so they miss out on support and wisdom from the people who love them most of all in their lives.
And based on my research, these things are at the root of what’s wrong with our families, particularly our marriages.
Judgment. Fear of vulnerability because of it. Lack of empathy.
We’ve missed out completely on the message of Jesus Christ.
He came to save the world – yes from Hell and eternal damnation, but more importantly (in this Now until we die) He came to give us life abundant in the middle of the small moments of a day, where we could gain life-bringing support, encouragement, love, etc., from the people who matter most to us.
From a young age, a boy is taught to “be tough,” so he doesn’t learn empathy as much as he could – he learns instead to deny his feelings instead of healthy ways of dealing with them. Little girls do not suffer this, so they’re fine, at least until they hit puberty (age 8-12 now) where they receive more conflicting messages about what it means to be female – sexuality is rewarded and also chastised. Confusing messages about “look beautiful” but don’t be a “slut” while “having it all” and encouragement to “embrace her sexuality” yet be a “good girl” leave her with cognitive dissonance, unclear of who she is or what is expected.
Think about your own sexual history, your own confusions about what being female means, and then compound this by marrying a man who is told he is a “protector” but he also gets cultural pressure to “conquer” women, his job, his social group, etc., and he’s as confused as we are.
Then we marry – and bring kids into this, starting the whole thing all over again. By the time our kids are in junior high or high school, our marriages are in trouble from all the un-handled baggage, and adding the issues of struggling young people carrying their own. We’re enabling instead of equipping, fighting against instead of fighting for, love is lost, men and women are labeled (and have too often become) abusive, co-dependent, and/or controlling, women are marked as shrews, and our families are falling apart.
We don’t know what to do, so we settle for isolation. We live separate lives instead of creating marriages that represent Christ and the church.
Or we give up and divorce.
Without even trying, we’ve bought the lies of the culture over God’s truths.
And not all the time, but too often, this happens to us whether we grew up in the church or not.
Some of those lies are the church’s. Man has placed himself on the throne and taken to judging the world, instead of allowing the Jesus-in-us to save it.
Too often if we’ve grown up in the church, we’ve taken to judging others instead of loving them, and our children are reflecting this. Another study shows that college-age people have 40% less empathy, care most about achievement, and are more focused on individual happiness than 30-40 years ago.
No wonder the world doesn’t see us as a positive influence.
What can we do?
If you are open to God changing your marriage in 2016, I’m inviting you to join me on a journey. I’ve been wrestling my way through this study, just like I did with Daughters of Sarah for many years. My husband and I had an interesting conversation the other day where we realized that it is important to respect and love ourselves well in order to love and respect each other better. We’re both growing in this area, and like you, we want to see our kids fully grasp these things.
The research supports this. (check this – the more we demonstrate compassion for ourselves, the more we show it to others – AND vice-versa! God is so good!)
And God calls us to it.
Don’t you think it matters?
Don’t you agree it’s what God would want? FAMILIES, not individuals, but communities, of people that not only “look different” but love well?
Here’s what I’d encourage you to do in 2016 to do your part in working with God to change your marriage:
- Believe He can.
- Spend 15-20 minutes reading the date in Proverbs and 5 Psalms a day, allowing Him to teach you what you don’t know, and apply these things to your daily life. There are 31 Proverbs, so if it is the 14th, you read Proverbs 14. There are 150 Psalms, so you just read 5 different Psalms a day, starting at 1-5 for the first day, regardless of the date. Here’s more on how that works – I’ve been doing it off and on for over 15 years. It’s awesome.
- If you have kids, spend the money on Dr. John Gottman’s parenting materials for raising emotionally intelligent children. And no, I don’t get a kick back from recommending this to you – We’ll have a new book out this spring to help with this, too. 🙂
- Deal with your own junk. Seriously. Here’s a great place to start.
- If all you do in your family is fight – or if you’ve taken to shriveling up and letting others walk all over you – try Celebrate Recovery. It’s for abusers, co-dependents, victims, addicts, etc., and it’s excellent. Here’s the books.
- If you know you need to do your part putting an end to being a critical wife and want to grow your relationship with God and your husband, start a Daughters of Sarah or Respect Dare group in your neighborhood. If you aren’t someone who respects herself, read Dr. Cloud’s Boundaries in Marriage and/or Dr. Dobson’s Love Must be Tough books while you do these things.
Why the both on # 6? Because if you don’t have a healthy (not selfish) respect, love, compassion for yourself, you’ll teach others to walk all over you – and you’ll enable abusive behavior. And you’ll malign the Word by teaching other women to do likewise.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve done this myself.
I know Daughters looks a little cumbersome, but He may be calling you into leadership. Grab a few friends, and jump in. And email me when you have questions. NinaRoesner(at)GreaterImpact.org. 🙂
What I plan to do for 2016 is a journey that continues the new dares, one where we respect ourselves, show ourselves compassion, and deepen our relationship with God. The end result is self-respect, healthy boundaries, modeling true strength, dignity and beauty for our daughters, and setting an example for our sons, all while honoring God and respecting our husbands. It’s all Biblical.
I’m personally inviting you to join me if you haven’t already. Subscribe to the marriage TIPS! on the sidebar or just the blog here if you want that via email. If you have gmail, know you’ll have to visit your “social” or “promotions” tab to get it unless you choose otherwise.
I want to tell you also, that if you are abused in your marriage, if your husband verbally assaults you, diminishes you, calls you names, disregards you as a person, doesn’t care about your health (emotionally or physically), is neglectful, or physically abusive,
DO NOT DO THE RESPECT DARE.
That is a book for how to respect your husband – and it assumes you have some healthy boundaries and some self respect already.
What will happen if you do it anyway and you’re abused? He’s going to habituate to a whole new level of taking advantage of you. If you think you are tired now, you haven’t seen anything yet.
If you are NOT being abused, however, join us.
Here’s a few links that might help you get started, too:
101 Ways to Respect Your Husband
15 Ways to Show Disrespect to Your Husband
How to Calm Down an Angry Husband
AND, my favorite for you for 2016!!!
The Compassion Exercise that IMPROVES Relationships with God, your “challenging person” and yourself! (if you do this for 14-21 days you’ll love the results! Over 86% of our pilot groups deeply improved their relationships with God, their “challenging person” and over 50% improved their feelings about themselves)
We’ll get started next week.
Love to you,
What about you? What do YOU want to be different in 2016? Do you want God to change your marriage? How have you seen “habituation” and gratitude effect your family? Dare you to chime in today! 🙂
I just read this blog post. And, I want to say thank you! Thank you for your blog and ministry. God has used them powerfully in my life as a great encouragement and gift through your ministry. I appreciate the stance you have taken in teaching women. I have always had a rocky marriage and over the past 19 years it has progressively gotten worse. I believe I came across your blog about 2 years ago through a link from another marriage blog. I would read it from time to time. I eventually ordered your book, the Respect Dare, and added it to my “pile” of books on marriage. But never got around to actually reading it.
Then last year, I read one of your posts that caused me to do some real soul searching. I don’t remember the title, but you dared us to “let it go”. If it was not worth divorce, then let it go…let it roll off our backs like water off a ducks back. So I decided to put that into practice. I let go of my husband putting his mother before me. I let go of my husband spending every evening all evening after work in front of his computer playing games. I let go of my husband complaining all the time about everything I did because I could never measure up. I let go of his lack of church involvement. I let go of his broken promises. But then I realized that there was one thing I could not let go of…how he treated me, how he used scripture to condemn me, point out all my faults, how I was not a good wife, how I was WRONG! I could not let go of how he tried to control me and what I did, how he manipulated me by saying or doing one thing and then changing it the next time to fit his desired outcome. I could not let go of how he blamed me for everything wrong including what our kids did and that how as a homeschool mom I was damaging them! I could not let go of how he verbally attacked me and the kids until I would crumple emotionally and physically with migraines and other ailments. All in the name of Jesus! He would hound me with Ephesians 5:22, yet never recognize the verse before it.
Yet in spite of all of this. I continued trying to be a good biblical wife as best I knew how. And, I would fail miserably…I would argue, get defensive, and be disrespectful. But I still was trying. I was reading biblical books on marriage and blogs, attended marriage counseling faithfully, and was under a Titus 2 mentor. I also tried your online ecourse, but only made through the first 4 dares (I now wonder if God was preventing me during this time). Nothing seemed to help, things only got worse. Then sometime last April, late at night due to insomnia, I came across a couple of Dares posted on your blog (4 and 29) about emotional abuse. The light bulb clicked on! Your blog led me to Leslie Vernick and Austin James. I ordered their books and did some intense research on emotional abuse. And so began my journey in learning how to take a respectful stand, Matthew 18 style in my marriage. Time and time again, God has used your blog posts to guide me along the way. I have saved and printed some of these posts to read over and over and mark up including: Dares 4, 12, & 29; Marriage Damage; Respect Dare; Parenting Risk; What to do when verbally assaulted; When the Respect Dare doesn’t work; Why is your wife unhappy; and God can change your marriage in 2016.
However as difficult and trying and painful as this process has been, God has taught me so much through it! I have learned that True Biblical submission is a Beautiful reflection of the Trinity and not being a doormat. I have come to a much greater and deeper understanding of God’s Grace and Unconditional Love. I have learned that Joy is sensing God’s Presence in the darkness. I am still working on the whole trust thing …God isn’t finished with me yet! Nevertheless, I will not continue to enable my husband to sin against me. I am learning that he is like an addict in that he needs boundaries. Being sweet and loving is not going to cause his behavior to change. Really and truly only God can change and heal him and our marriage. Meanwhile, I need to learn to humbly and respectfully set some strong boundaries in our relationship. Yet, I still struggle with how and especially with the right attitude! Though I just signed up for your “Strength and Dignity” ecourse and it looks like exactly what I need for this season! God continues to use you!
In conclusion, I leave you with this question. In this post, you stated I need to start with believing God. My question is “What?” What do I believe about God. What does God want me to believe? What if…what if God doesn’t want to heal my marriage? There are so many physical ailments that God does not physically heal here on earth…Joni Erickson Tada and all of our friends and family that we pray for healing from cancer, brain tumors, diseases with unpronounceable names, and yet God says no. Can’t God in His Sovereignty say “No” to my marriage as well? What if God is more interested in healing me through a broken marriage than in healing my marriage?
My heart aches for you, and smiles with Dad at your perseverance. You haven’t quit. And I’m glad, because you are right, God isn’t done with you (or any of us) yet. My guess is there are MANY women who can understand and relate to your circumstances.
As far as believing God… God wants you to believe in Him, regardless of your circumstances. He also wants to heal your marriage, but He gives you and your husband free will. So He knows full healing may or may not happen (He’s omniscient, so He totally knows how this whole gig turns out for all of us) this side of heaven. And yes, He may not heal your marriage. Can He? YES. Will He? Dunno. God in His Sovereignty hardened Pharoah’s heart – he can do the same to your husband, and if He does, you’re not going to know, nor does it even matter – He’d have His good reasons. We live in a fallen world. We STILL have to choose to obey and to follow. If we don’t, we’re choosing disobedience, and worse, idolatry. We’re worshiping self. So Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego style, He can heal your marriage, but even if He doesn’t, you can totally trust Him.
I know that isn’t what you want to hear. It’s not what I want to tell you. I don’t pretend to know what God’s particular interest is in you or your man or your marriage, but I do know this: He loves you. And your husband. Enough to sacrifice His son and Himself for you.
And at the end of the day, that’s what matters.
Love to you! 🙂
What do I want to be different in 2016? I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am walking down the path that God has prepared for me. I want to think and ponder before I “jump in”.
Do you want God to change your marriage? YES – A thousand times yes! I want Him to show me how to love my husband they was He wants me to love Him – to see Him as He sees Him – a child of God.
How have you seen “habituation” and gratitude effect your family? Just going thru the motions too many times. I know that Words of Affirmation are important to me and without them I can begin to “die” emotionally. I need to be more conscientious of doing what my husband appreciates and make his needs important. I need to keep up with a list of gratitudes. Somedays they are as simple as a toilet that works!! Thanks for challenging me again!!
Excellent. 🙂 YES, the list of gratitudes – changes everything. Research says so, God’s Word says so… good stuff. SO glad you are here!
Love to you!
I recently had to physically leave my husband a few weeks because several things at our house he wasn’t taking care of and it was becoming unsafe for my children and myself, also the process and being away 3.weeks I realized I needed space from him. He has been emotionally abusive a bbq d didn’t realize till storing outside of it that I have been. How I’m working on my boundaries and buying thr book and going to counseling. Your post and just signed up for strength and c dignity ecourse as well. Thank you for your wisdom. I wanted to ask though,what if your husband doesn’t acknowledge his words or denies it? What do you do then?
YES. I am praying for you, sister. This is a hard road, but I can see you are committed to walking it for your kids and your sake. For His sake. And YES – the “victim” also tends to “join in” without even being aware of it. I’m so proud of you for not only recognizing this, but choosing to do something about it. I also believe God is doing something HUGE here – too many women have been “enabling” men, damaging their families, and being endorsed by fear-driven churches and “Christian culture.” I wish I didn’t understand all these things, if you know what I mean. 🙂
It is so obvious, yet so difficult to see, if that makes any sense. And like the frog in the pot, suddenly we realize we’re boiling, and it’s too late – but NOT IN YOUR CASE. Your kids and family will be different because of your brave step. God is in this, Amanda. You are following.
So glad to link arms with you, sister. I admire your bravery and transparency.
Love to you!
I totally agree with your suggestions on #6. I tried to do The Respect Dare before I read Boundaries in Marriage and I just felt more defeated. I read (and re-read) Boundaries AND Boundaries in Marriage and after that I could do The Respect Dare and Daughters of Sarah. I guess I never thought about the connection until now. Thank you!
Thank you so much for this. YES yes yes! We need to be whole – otherwise our attempts to serve can just throw us under a bus, and then we’re enabling even more. For too long, I’ve referred women elsewhere, not knowing there was a problem, then not knowing what it was. NOW I DO. And together, we’re going to glorify God, through the strength and at the direction of His Spirit in us. He is too good. 🙂
For such a time as this, yes? 🙂
Love to you!
I read your article and I also read your last few comments about being verbally abused. What if that is happening what do you suggest I do to try to make this work.
Lori Joe –
I’m so sorry you are going through this. I’ve been blown away by the comments and questions this week – all but yours have been private, which concerns me deeply. I’m writing a post in response to your question. It should be up tomorrow or Tuesday. I’ll link back to it here. Love to you, baby.
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